On August 13th, 2004, something happened that shook the very foundations of the Indian Criminal Justice System. It was a consequence of the incompetency of the entire system. The courts weren’t able to provide justice to the common people. The authorities weren’t able to keep them safe. They followed the due process of the law, but it led them nowhere. The common man was left with no other option. They took up the mantle of providing social justice for themselves and their loved ones. “Indian Predator: Murder in a Courtroom,” tells us about a controversial event that sparked a debate across the globe and divided the people into two distinct factions. One faction believed that whatever happened on that day in the courtroom in Nagpur set a very bad precedent. But the others believed that it happened because people were pushed to the edge by an inept system, where they had to make a choice and decide the kind of future they wanted for their kids. So, let’s find out what were the repercussions of the fateful events of August 13th, 2004. Let’s weigh the pros and cons and analyze whether what happened was right or wrong.
Who Was Akku Yadav? How Did He Establish His Dominance In Kasturba Nagar?
People like Akku Yadav do not become hardened criminals overnight. Socio-political conditions, education, economic factors, and other things also play a key role in molding the personality of a person. Akku was the son of a cattle owner and lived in the Kasturba Nagar locality in Nagpur with his whole family. Akku’s real name was Bharat Kalicharan, and he had a very normal childhood where he didn’t show signs of violence. He was a normal boy who went about his business without causing any trouble. But something changed down the line. He started gambling, drinking, and frittering away his time with the other boys of the locality. He first started stealing small items from the houses in his neighborhood, and then eventually, he realized that he could take advantage of timid people and scare them off.
Meena Gajbhiye, a resident of Kasturba Nagar, said that he beat her husband in front of her because she accused him of stealing a watch from their house. And from there, Akku never looked back. He believed that he could do anything and still get away with it. There was nobody who dared raise a voice against him. The first complaint that was lodged against Akku was of molestation under section 354 of the Indian penal code. He had created such a terror that there were no celebrations, no marriages, in the area during the time period when he was active. Not a lot of vendors liked coming inside the area, as they feared the dreaded criminal. The residents of Kasturba Nagar felt helpless. The police weren’t helping them, and they didn’t know who else to lean on.
Asha Bhagat was probably the only woman who wasn’t scared of Akku. She used to sell alcohol and knew a lot of powerful people. A lot of criminals, too, came to her alcohol bar. She shared a good relationship with everybody. In fact, according to the residents, Akku was intimidated by her. When things really got out of hand, Asha Bhagat orchestrated an attack on Akku, but somehow, he got saved. When he was injured, his friend, Avinash Tiwari, gave him blood and saved his life. But Avinash used to maintain good relationships with everybody. He also used to meet Asha Bhagat, whom Akku didn’t like. Akku told him to not talk to people like Asha Bhagat, but Avinash didn’t listen to him. They had a heated argument, and Akku got up and left for his home. He came back with a knife and stabbed Avinash and killed him. In his testimony, Gendlal Srivastava says that Akku didn’t have the intention of killing his friend, but it just happened in the heat of the moment (though that heat lasted for quite a long while).
Akku got out of prison in less than ten months. It made him feel invincible. He knew that the authorities wouldn’t be able to do anything against him. In fact, serving prison time was more like going on a vacation for him. He had made friends in the prison, and he got whatever he wanted. Akku planned the murder of Asha Bhagat, his arch-nemesis and probably the only person, at that time, who could stand up to him. In 1999, he trespassed inside Asha Bhagat’s house and killed her in cold blood. Kasturba Nagar lost its guardian angel. The police came and arrested him, but looking at his calm demeanor, the residents knew that he would come out of the prison in no time.
How Did Usha Narayane Take A Stand Against Akku?
In “Indian Predator: Murder in a Courtroom,” we saw that the people were polarized. Some people believed that Akku chose his victims based on their castes. But Rajesh Khandekar, his friend, said that the political parties were just trying to gain leverage by using the issue, and strengthen their vote bank. Rajesh said that Akku didn’t indulge in casteism. Actually, he was too self-absorbed to think about these things. Anybody could be his target and cast were least of his concerns. The residents of Kasturba Nagar wanted to do something about him. Sita Wasnik and Shobha Sakhre decided that they would kill him when they found an opportunity. They had made all the arrangements, but Akku’s intuition told him that something wasn’t right, and he escaped from their house before they could do anything. Usha Narayane was probably the last person who was threatened by Akku before he was killed. Usha had done hotel management and she was one of the few people from the locality who had completed her studies. Akku had made Usha his object of lust. He used to make abusive remarks at her and didn’t miss a chance to make her extremely uncomfortable and scared.
Usha saw Akku and his men molesting a girl in their neighborhood. Usha went with the aggrieved party to the police station and complained about Akku. Akku got to know about it and came to Usha’s house one night. Akku was constantly banging on the door and threatening her that he would kill her. Usha was petrified. She didn’t know what to do. Suddenly, it struck her that she had a gas cylinder in her home. She brought the cylinder near the door and warned Akku that she would blow it up if he entered her house. It was at that moment that something stirred the souls of the residents of Kasturba Nagar. They all came out of their houses with sticks and kitchen knives, and Akku was forced to run away from there. There was power in unity and the residents had just realized it. They realized that Akku was not infallible and that he could be defeated if they fought together. The people who had left their houses in fear that he would come and kill them, were called back. The whole locality started conspiring against the devil. They searched for him day and night, but Akku was a shrewd man. He surrendered himself to the police as he knew that prison was the only place where he could stay safe.
‘Indian Predator: Murder in a Courtroom’ Explained: How Was Akku Yadav Killed? Were The Residents Right Or Wrong In Doing So?
Even after so much had happened, a huge faction still believed that Akku had not committed any sexual offenses in reality. A lot of conspiracy theories were floating in the media in those days. Some believed that Naxalites were behind it, and some thought that an enemy gang wanted to take revenge on him. The women of Kasturba Nagar organized a press conference also, but they were disappointed to see that nothing was printed in the newspapers the next day. Nobody supported them. Nobody was ready to listen to them. The legal system, the government, and the police authorities had failed them. Nobody wanted to believe them. People didn’t want to be associated with their cause. When they didn’t receive any help from the outside, they knew that it was time to take matters into their own hands. They knew that Akku would easily come out of the prison if they didn’t intervene. So, the timid and apprehensive residents planned on doing something that had never been done in the country. They planned on killing Akku Yadav in the court itself. On August 13th, on the day of the trial, the women came all prepared to the court. Akku Yadav, in his arrogance, provoked a woman. She threw her footwear at him. Akku hadn’t expected that the people of his locality could even raise a finger against him. The women were not scared of him. They made sure that he saw the anger in their eyes. Akku was taken inside the court, and the constables locked the doors so that the angry crowd wasn’t able to enter the premises. But no door could keep the angry women outside the courtroom that day. They broke the windows and unlocked the door and entered the courtroom. They surrounded Akku Yadav from all sides. They threw chili powder in his eyes and started beating him. They had brought knives and stones with them. They started stabbing him with their kitchen knives. When the knives got crooked, they used the stones to make the blade straight and then once again pierced it inside his body. Akku Yadav’s body was severed into multiple pieces in the courtroom itself.
On November 11th, 2014, all 50-odd women were acquitted by the court of law. In the series “Indian Predator: Murder in a Courtroom,” we saw that a lot of intellectuals felt that the women didn’t do the right thing. A lot of people said that vigilantism couldn’t be a part of a democratic setup. They said that women taking the law into their own hands was not the right precedent to set. But then what other option did they have? It was said that Akku raped and molested over 40 girls from his neighborhood, but nobody filed a complaint because they were too scared to do so. The police and the media blamed the victims and held them responsible for not reporting the crime on time. As much as we personally respect the due process of the law, there are times when criminals make use of the loopholes of the legal system to their advantage. Even though there are legal provisions for almost every crime, there are some executional inadequacies that allow these criminals to go about their business in an unhindered manner. And moreover, who listens to you if you are not a powerful person? Why wasn’t anything done about the culprit by the authorities? We don’t know whether what the women did could be termed as justice or not, but it does feel like it. What the women did was surely against the law, but at that moment, it seemed no less than a revolution. It felt like Akku deserved this end, and if the women had left him for the court, then surely, he would have once again mocked the entire system and walked out as a free man. It was a failure of our Criminal Justice System.
Speaking on moral grounds, it is not right to kill somebody. Maybe the women shouldn’t have interfered and should have let the law take its course. Maybe it did set a bad precedent. Maybe it was against the principles of democracy. But, even after knowing all this, it felt like justice had been served in its rawest form. I personally hope that our history is kind towards those brave women and remembers them as fighters and not as perpetrators, who, in a patriarchal setup, did not only raise their voices but roared in a manner that shook the very foundations of our fragile system. That day, when the law failed to serve the citizens, the citizens decided to serve the law. It was said that the women of Kasturba Nagar distributed sweets and celebrated the occasion of the death of Akku. For them, that day was no less than the festival of Dussehra. It was a victory of good over evil.
“Indian Predator: Murder in a Courtroom” is a 2022 Documentary series streaming on Netflix.